The softball and baseball teams of Flagstaff High, Coconino High and Northland Prep Academy combined for a total of 36 Arizona Interscholastic Association region awards, with two baseball coaches earning accolades for the first time in their respective careers.
Coconino Panthers baseball manager Daniel Vander Valk, who took the position in 2014 after acting as a longtime assistant under Ed Vesely, shared the Grand Canyon Region Coach of the Year with Mingus Union skipper Bob Young. The Panthers competed in the 4A Conference this season.
At Northland Prep, Spartans manager Ryan Johnson, finishing his second season at the helm of the 2A Conference team, was named the Central Region Coach of the Year along with Will Davis of the Camp Verde Cowboys.
The Panthers baseball team had eight players acknowledged for their performances, led by Offensive Player of the Year Jake Plecas and his .438 batting average, 35 RBIs, five triples and three home runs, all of which were team highs. Plecas made the All-Region First Team, as did Jake Reed as a pitcher and catcher Colton Baxter as a position player.
Christian Casados made second-team honors as a pitcher, with Ty Furr on the list as a position player for the Panthers, who had Kyle Casados and Jack Ginsberg get honorable mentions.
Vander Valk said getting the coaching award for the first time in his three seasons as skipper of the team came from a combined effort of the four assistant coaches on his staff. He also said he had a feeling his Jakes would make the cut and that Ginsberg deserved the honor for taking over the leadoff spot late in the season and helping the team turn the season around after it suffered a slump.
"For me, it's an amazing accomplishment and feeling to have recognized what me and my coaching staff do here at Coconino," he said. "As soon as I got the call, I got in touch with my staff and told them how much I appreciated their hard work."
Brennan Brogni was named the Grand Canyon Region Defensive Player of the Year thanks to his strong performances at shortstop and at the plate for the Eagles. The senior recorded a team-high .391 batting average, and connected for five doubles and triples and two homers. He also made the first team along with Jimmy Guinan as position players.
Also for the Flagstaff Eagles baseball team, Jared Wetzel, Shane Kuzmin and Drew Healy made the second team roll call, with Avery Wilson getting honorable mention.
No Flagstaff softball players were named.
Adding to its strong 13-5 record and coach of the year honor, the Spartans baseball team had 10 players receive awards. Leading the way for the team was Jacob McDaniel, a pitcher, catcher and big offensive threat for the team who shared Central Region Player of the Year recognition with Wyatt Howe of Camp Verde. McDaniel led the Spartans in RBIs with 35 and ended his season on the mound with an impressive 1.74 ERA.
Zev Axler, a senior, was named the Central Region Defensive Player of the Year for the Spartans, who made the first round of the postseason. Axler was also a offensive powerhouse, notching a .647 batting average and team-leading 33 hits as he worked as the leadoff man.
Moreover, McDaniel made the first team as a pitcher and position player, with Axler and Bennett Wojcik making first team as a position players. Making the second team for NPA was Zach Tweed as both a pitcher and position player, Jack Sullivan, and Jacob Marquez.
No honorable mentions were released by the AIA for the Central Region.
The Coconino Panthers softball team cleaned house, with seven total players getting accolades. Twins Rachel and Mary Tosi made the first team of the Grand Canyon Region along with leadoff hitter McKenna Gladden, who finished with a .382 batting average.
Kaitlyn Snopek, who shared time with Rachel in the circle, made the second team as a pitcher, and teammate Taylor Brown also got second-team honors. Receiving honorable mentions as Panthers were Taylor Garcia and Brooklynn Wong.
For the Northland Prep softball team, Megan Netherton made the first team as a pitcher and position player, with Megan Swinney also getting on that list in addition to the second team. Making the second team for the Spartans were Ellie Webb, Grace Vonesh, Peyten Chicci and Casey Auza.